Learn Ice Hockey Taster Session in La Rosiere
Sometimes you don’t know your own family until you get out of your comfort zone and try something new. Our ‘Learn Ice Hockey’ session in the French Alps proved to be both demanding and embarrassing but ultimately bonding. And despite the bruises, everyone thought family hockey was well worth the effort. Although maybe not at the time…
Warning: husband on ice
It’s hard to love your husband when he’s hopping awkwardly on ice like a newborn penguin. Especially as he’s the oldest and tallest in the room – apart from the alpha penguin who owns the rink. It’s even harder to love him as his hands flail, his legs come out from under him and he comes crashing down on his back.
Everyone else loves him mind, but only because he’s making them look better. As family sports go this is not one for feeding the ego. And particularly not when you are an English family only familiar with ice when it’s popping into drinks or covering a bump on the head.
Learning from the pro’s
The ice rink in La Rosiere has definitely seen better skaters. Only last night we watched pint sized players battling it out against other local kids as a prelude to the real battle of the hockey sticks. The local team, La Rosiere Tigers, pitted against a team of athletes from Val D’Isere. The match was vicious, brutal and to the unlearned eye, utterly chaotic. And quite exciting as spectator sports go. But not as exciting as being strapped into boots and pushed onto a frozen white sheet for your first ever lesson in ice hockey.
I’m sitting this one out as I have never yet learnt to let go of the hand rail and you do need to be able to skate unaided. I’m heartily glad I made this decision when thirty people are lined up and drilled in how to stop and turn. And I mean really turn. Some of the skaters have clearly been practicing as they bomb down to the end and do a pirouette.
Training future players
It turns out that the tutor of the session Patrick Adin might not have allowed me on the ice anyway, as you need to have some skill on skates to take part in a ‘have a go’ session. Or be, as he sensitively puts it “a little bit ‘sportif.” Pat, who owns and runs La Rosiere’s Patinoire, is an expert at running ice hockey sessions in mountain ski resorts having taught the sport at Meribel, Courchevel and La Rosière. He is also part of the professional team we saw last night. But he does welcome people who are up for improving their skills and having fun.
“It’s open to every type of family. You do the skating before it to train your body and feel the sensations.” There’s a lot to learn – he tells me the sport has 200 technical gestures and it can take ten years to become a good player. He’s been practicing and teaching for 47 years so far. “I have no woman, just the ice rink,” he laughs.
Training my family
As my family lumber down the ice, and Pat attempts to train and instruct them I watch their personalities shine through. Stuart and Matthew look too tall and awkward and too English somehow, but they are giving it a real go and starting to get competitive. When they fall they get up again. They brush themselves down and try to laugh. Cameron the ballet dancer is beaming most of the time and quickly starts to come to grips with turns. Hannah is quietly persevering, as Hannah does.
And I think ‘Yeh! They did it.’ And they think ‘Yeh, we did it!’ and then Pat announces that its time for a game. And we all start to panic.
Carnage on the ice
The games are carnage. Pucks arrive and disappear and sticks are clashed and bashed and builders bums are flashed. And there are people on the floor, and in the air and crashing into the side. People on the side are cheering without even being sure which team is which. I know my team though. (Unwisely Pat has lumped them together as a family team.) Because they are down the most, but getting up the most, and they lose not one, not two but all of their matches and yet still they carry on. At one point they decide that they are losing because they don’t have the right bibs. But no, the bibs don’t really make a difference. They are losing because they are Mr Bean on ice. And then suddenly Matthew is making a pretty good job in goal, and they are managing to stay on their feel a little more. And then it’s over. Take a look at the video to see how they got on.
What’s not to love about the family on the ice
I find I revise my opinions. It’s not hard to love your husband when he looks like a penguin in a bib and trails several tall teen penguins behind him. Because he has given it a go. Because they look resilient and silly, and funny and determined and just a little bit crazed. Because they are happy. Bonding together in a way they don’t normally do at home, trying to figure out each others strengths and weaknesses and how they will get through the game. On their feet, even while flapping about, they have a presence and a strength. And for a moment I wish I’d given it a go. It’s probably the most fun our family have had together in ages. But then I feel glad I have witnessed this family moment from the outside. It’s not often in the melee of kids and the home that you get the chance to see them from a fresh perspective is it?
If you have a chance to try ice hockey together I advise you strap on the boots and get on the ice with them, or at least watch them have a game. You’ll be hooked. Your puck might not, but then winning isn’t everything.
Disclosure Note: We travelled to La Rosiere in a collaboration with Atout France and France Montagnes to help promote winter sports in the French Alps. All opinions, photography, videography, and skill at ice hockey is entirely our own.